Where To Find Accessible Outings for Kids of All Abilities
Finding fun activities to do with kids can be difficult any time but the quest can be much more complicated when factoring in cognitive, motor, visual, or hearing needs. Activities and events that are kid-friendly aren’t always every-kid-friendly.
So how do you find places that are accessible while meeting the proper kid-approved level of fun? Let’s explore some inclusive options that are popular with both children and parents.
Many larger cinema chains offer sensory-friendly showings of featured films once a month or more. During these showings, the lights are turned up in the theaters and the volume is turned down. Guests are able to walk, dance, sing, talk, cry, shout, or generally express themselves as the movie plays. Parents and kids are able to enjoy the current popular films in a safe space, and often at a discounted ticket price. If you have not seen this type of offering advertised in your city or town, reach out to your local cinema and ask that they add it to their repertoire.
Additionally, while most modern theaters provide accessible entrances and facilities, be sure to double-check these features on the Ability App before you go.
It isn’t just the motion picture industry that has found this pocket of inclusivity. Many children’s theaters are also on board, offering sensory-friendly performances with increased lighting in the seating area throughout the performance, lower sound levels, and lowered seating capacities to allow for more space and movement between patrons.
Additionally, patrons can bring in electronic devices, as needed, including headphones or tablets. And they are welcome to bring in items that bring them comfort such as fidget toys, special seating devices, food, or drink. Many theatres are also happy to provide an extra visit to the theater prior to the show, so that families can become comfortable with the environment prior to the event. If you go, be sure to ask whether the theater has prompt sheets or storybooks you can download ahead of time, to prepare for the show experience.
Interactive Children’s museums or science centers are great places to find sensory programming. Check with your local museums for their sensory offerings, which are typically outside of the usual museum hours. These special hours are often discounted or free for families accompanying a guest with a disability. Many museums will reduce the number of visitors and adjust the lighting and sound levels on interactive exhibits when possible to make the experience relaxing for all. Some may have staff on hand, who understand the many accommodations for people with disabilities and are specially trained in inclusive communication.
Be sure to ask if your local science center has a sensory guide, a map that rates the noise and odor levels, as well as visual stimulation in the different museum spaces, which can be helpful when planning your visit.
Parks & Playgrounds:
Summer is the very best time to explore the inclusive outdoor parks and playgrounds in your area. Many newer playgrounds have included structures for ground-level play, music play, or water play, while other exhibits have multiple textures, which can be explored by touch. Be sure to look for your park in the Ability App for walkway, ramp, and parking accessibility information.
Sensory story times are wonderful offerings at many public libraries. Limited to a smaller number of families, these events are specifically for younger kids who may have difficulty in large groups or are sensitive to sensory overload. Librarians encourage songs and movements during these free sessions and usually provide a visual schedule online so that families may familiarize their child with the program beforehand. Be sure to check if registration is required for these events at your local library branch.
These are just some of the locations that have been taking steps to increase inclusion and accessibility. If your area doesn’t have these offerings, hop on the phone or social accounts, and start advocating.